Sampras to Djokovic: Give me that return of serve

Pete Sampras believes Novak Djokovic's return of serve would have made life difficult for him

Pete Sampras (right) and Novak Djokovic

Pete Sampras may well go down in history as one of the best servers, but the American legend believes the Novak Djokovic return of serve is an equally potent weapon.

ATP’s showpiece event, the World Tour Finals, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. In the run-up to the event, to be held at London’s O2 Arena from November 15 to 22, the ATP arranged a video chat between Sampras and Djokovic, with Tim Henman playing the mediator.

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When asked which shot in Djokovic’s arsenal would he take, Sampras was quick to respond, “Give me that return of serve.”

Sampras earned the moniker ‘Pistol Pete’ for his fast, incisive serves. The American finished with 14 Grand Slam titles, including seven at the hallowed grass courts of Wimbledon, which was a server’s paradise in the 1990s.

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“Everyone asks who would give a hard time if I was playing today, it would be Novak because of his return,” the 49-year-old said.

“With Andre (Agassi), it always got by him if I was picking my spots, but with Novak, it would be tough to get by him because of his stretch.”

“I wouldn’t mind some of his speed,” Sampras added.

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Djokovic, who has claimed 17 majors so far, has always idolized Sampras. On Monday, he equaled Sampras’ record of six year-end No 1 finishes as he is guaranteed to end 2020 as the top-ranked player in the world.

“I don’t mind exchanging my return and speed for your serve and volley game,” Djokovic told Sampras during the video chat. “I would be lovely to experience that kind of match up.”

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Sampras and Djokovic have won the season-ending ATP Finals five times each. The 33-year-old Serb last won the title in 2015. He has been in two finals since but lost to Andy Murray in 2016 and Alexander Zverev in 2018.